(urth) silk horn

Dan'l Danehy-Oakes danldo at gmail.com
Wed Dec 8 12:40:59 PST 2004


While this is more of a riff on what you wrote than a driect response to it, 
I should like to observe that a lot of the problems of identity in the solar
books (and 5HC) are extensions of real problems encountered today, where
neurobiology and psychology meet theology (specifically pneumatology).


* V, abused as a child, develops a second personality as a protector. 
  This personality, V', is active about one third of the time, and has a 
  complex life of her own. V is unaware of the existence of V', and she 
  of him. Is there one soul or two present here?

* W undergoes neurological damage due to alcohol abuse, following 
  which he becomes aggressive, impatient, belligerent, and violent. Is
  he morally responsible for his behavior - are his violent outbursts moral

* X undergoes a more severe trauma, resulting in functional amnesia;
  all memories of identity and relationships vanish. She wanders off
  and begins a new life as X', with a new husband,a job unlike her old
  one, etc. Is this a separate person with a separate soul? Suppose
  some other circumstance restores her old memories - what is the identity
  of the personality who now has memories of being X and X'?

* Y is born profoundly autistic, unable to respond to other human beings
  in any way. Y develops certain "savant" talents, such as the ability to
  draw extraordinarily accurate and detailed pictures of any face he has
  seen. Is he an ensoulled human being or a biological machine?

* In the near future, following a terrible accident, large parts of Z's body
  are replaced by prosthetic devices, including parts of her central nervous
  system. Is she human any more? If so, is she the same person she was
  prior to the accident and prostheses?

It seems to me that problems like Severian-Thecla-Autarchs, Chenille- 
Kypris-Scylla, and Rose-Marble are clearly extensions of these problems. 
Gene Wolfe is using SF for its by now time-honored function of taking 
real problems and exaggerating or isolating them to examine them more 

As it happens, in this case, doing so makes the problems even more 


Freedom has no barcode.
     --J.G. Ballard

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